I had to assist someone with a Metrocard purchase yesterday, and I nearly did a double-take when the vending machine alerted me to the $1 surcharge for new cards. As a WageWorks member, my new Metrocards come in the mail and without the MTA’s so-called green fee so I haven’t had a chance to go through the purchase process in a while. For many, of course, since March, the added charge for a new card has been a part of the routine process.
Now that the MTA has been collecting revenue from these purchases for a few months, the agency is in a better position to shed light on the economics behind the move, and according to a report in the Daily News today, it is paying dividends. Pete Donohue says the MTA has already collected $10 million in fees. He has more of a breakdown:
The MTA expects to print 60 million fewer MetroCards next year – so much plastic that, placed end-to-end, the cards would stretch 3,196 miles, the distance from New York City to Los Angeles and up the West Coast to San Francisco. It sold 101 million MetroCards last year, said MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg…
In its first four months, the green fee generated $10,841,000 for MTA coffers, said NYC Transit division budget director Aaron Stern. The MTA expects gross revenues to total nearly $24 million this year, and $28 million next year with a combined $3.8 million savings in production costs, said agency officials…
The green-fee windfall will be partially offset, officials said, by an estimated $11 million reduction in “fare media liability.” The MTA budget term is used to describe unused value riders leave on MetroCards: small change or trips paid for but not taken.
Initially, this is certainly good news for the MTA. Even though its fare media liability total is decreasing, it is saving significant costs by printing far fewer Metrocards, and the move has been environmentally friendly as well. I’m still a bit skeptical of the agency’s predictions of increased revenue from the fee next year though.
As I wrote in May, at a certain point, subway riders’ habits will change. Already Donohue easily found riders who have been using the same Metrocard since March, and that trend will continue. The MTA can save money on production costs, but will the revenue from the $1 fee continue to be as robust? Tourists will pay, but everyday riders will curtail their Metrocard purchases. For now, though, and until the Metrocard is finally phased out, the fee will remain.